Last summer, Houston Rockets fans did not know what to expect after forward Chandler Parsons signed with their I-45 rivals, the Dallas Mavericks in free agency. Leaving a huge void to fill at small forward, Rockets fans criticized Houston’s decision to re-sign veteran Trevor Ariza from the Washington Wizards.
Many thought Ariza’s signing was going to become another disappointment like he was in his first stint in 2010. After the departure of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, the Rockets were in the midst of rebuilding. Fans saw Trevor Ariza as a sign of a new era, but he failed to meet those expectations. After failing to reach the playoffs that season, Ariza was traded to the New Orleans Hornets in a four team, five player deal.
Meanwhile Mavericks fans witnessed Chandler Parsons’ number decline, and later saw his season end early due to a knee injury, Houston quickly realized that Ariza was the better fit than Parsons. Other than James Harden, Ariza played the most significant role for the Rockets last season. Appearing in all 82 games, Ariza averaged 12.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and grabbed a career high 1.9 steals per game.
Since the start of’ preseason, Ariza appears to already be in mid-season form for the Rockets. In five games, Ariza is averaging 16.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assist for the preseason.
In the Rockets’ 105-100 loss to the Miami Heat this past Saturday, Ariza played 27 minutes during which he poured in 24 points (on 10 of 14 shooting), and like always his defense was on point.
After posting 18 points in Monday’s 120-100 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, Ariza proved that he is ready to pursue his second championship this season in Houston.
Although James Harden became a better defender last season, Ariza has established himself as Houston’s best all-around player. Now, before getting all upset, just take a moment to see what Ariza is capable of doing on the court. Ariza is a versatile offensive player that can score both inside and outside, a solid rebounder, and can guard every position on the court. James Harden is the Rockets’ MVP, but Houston cannot accomplish anything without Ariza’s assistance on the floor.
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) October 20, 2015
It is sad to say, but playing behind all-star players John Wall, Chris Paul, and Kobe Bryant, Ariza has never received the acknowledgement he deserves in his 12 years in the league. Looking back, Ariza’s style of play resembles Houston Rocket legend Vernon “Mad Max” Maxwell.
He had five great seasons in Houston, and in the mid-90s, Maxwell was a significant player in the Rockets’ back-to-back championship titles averaging 14.6 points and 4.6 assists per game. Playing alongside Kenny Smith, they created one of the best back court duos in the league.
Even though he was a great offensive player, Mad Max became known for his ability as a defensive specialist, and had the ability to lock down any player on the court. Even Michael Jordan had a hard time scoring over Mad Max, and NBA analysts considered him Jordan’s kryptonite. Ranked sixth on the Rockets’ all-time steals leaders, Maxwell became one of the best defensive players in Rockets history.
With all due respect to the great Hakeem Olajuwon, the Rockets would have never became world champions without the play of Vernon Maxwell. The role that Maxwell had during his time in Houston is a mirror image to the role Trevor Ariza plays today.
In order for the Rockets to win the title this season, Ariza must continue to play as Houston’s best all-around player. He must continue to match up against the best player on the opponents team, he must continue to shoot from the perimeter to spread the court and drive the lane to keep the defender busy on their defensive end.
Bottom line: If Ariza can carry his preseason momentum into the regular season, the league will have a hard time stopping the Rockets from blasting off.
As we close in on opening day of the 2015-16 regular season make sure you catch up on our Player Profile Series and our Round Table Sessions prepping you for the October 28th tip-off and as always stay with Space City Scoop for all things Houston Rockets.
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